California | Dianne Feinstein | Gay Adoption | Gay Marriage | Harvey Milk | News | Proposition 8

Senator Dianne Feinstein on Harvey Milk, Prop 8, Marriage Equality


Maureen Dowd spoke with California Senator Dianne Feinstein about Harvey Milk and Proposition 8 in a column published over the weekend. Feinstein's well-known, soon to be extremely well-known gut-wrenching press conference following Milk's assassination, frames both the Friedman/Epstein documentary The Times of Harvey Milk and features prominently in Gus van Sant's biopic Milk, opening this week.

Feinstein2Feinstein also campaigned against Proposition 8 in an ad that was run statewide before the election.

Said Feinstein of Milk: "I was the one who found his body. To get a pulse, I put my finger in a bullet hole. It was a terrible, terrible time in the city’s history...It’s very painful for me. It took me seven years before I could sit in George Moscone’s chair. It took me a long time to talk about it. I was only recently able to talk about it."

On the validity of the nearly 20,000 same-sex marriages in California: "You can’t redact it. You can’t blot it out. It’s so intrinsic to the Constitution that you cannot remove it by a vote of the people."

On same-sex marriage in general, and gay adoption: "I think as more and more people have gay friends, gay associations, see gay heroism, that their views change. I think people are beginning to look at it differently, I know it’s happened for me. I started out not supporting it. The longer I’ve lived, the more I’ve seen the happiness of people, the stability that these commitments bring to a life. Many adopted children who would have ended up in foster care now have good solid homes and are brought up learning the difference between right and wrong. It’s a very positive thing."

The NBC Nightly News report on the Milk and Moscone assassinations, AFTER THE JUMP...

Marriage on the Rocks [maureen dowd]

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  1. Well, that took long enough. But good for her for getting there. And good for her for being honest.

    Posted by: David D. | Nov 24, 2008 12:35:11 PM

  2. It strikes me as sad that all this "speaking out against Prop 8" is taking place AFTER the vote! I know the country was caught up in the general election, but I wish we could have captured these sentiments BEFORE the voting. Just how I feel this morning on a gray day in Chicago.

    Posted by: David in Chicago | Nov 24, 2008 12:39:16 PM

  3. I remember sometime in the 90's after Feinstein became a Senator, Congress was debating the assault weapons bill. (Might've been after the massacre at the law offices in San Francisco in '93 or thereabouts.) Someone--Orrin Hatch?--gave an incredibly condescending speech to Feinstein, accusing her of "not understanding" anything about guns. Feinstein rose and offered a very measured rejoinder, recounting that story about trying to get Harvey's pulse and putting her finger into a bullet hole. It was one of the most quietly devastating speeches I'd ever read in my life. Whatever quibbles I've had with her over the years, she's earned her battle stripes.

    Posted by: Dback | Nov 24, 2008 12:51:56 PM

  4. Sen. Ted Kennedy, despite being known as the "Liberal Lion," didn't change his mind on same-sex marriage until 2003. Before then, he was opposed to it. So, it sometimes takes a lot of nudging.

    While I doubt we're going to convince the evangelicals in Utah and South Carolina that we should have equal rights, moderate Catholics and Jews (especially) are open to the idea that they might be on the wrong side of history.

    Posted by: John in CA | Nov 24, 2008 1:05:13 PM

  5. I was taken aback by the bumper at the beginning of the clip. Paul Anka on Sha Na Na? Wow, that takes me back. I loved that show (being six at the time I didn't have the well developed tastes I do now).

    It's little details like that which remind us that history doesn't happen. History is only what you read about current events years after they happen. When the events are actually happening, very rarely do they take up the attention in the public consciousness that those of us looking back think they should have.

    Speaking of which, the clip reminds us that, at the time, the murder of Moscone was a much, much bigger story.

    Posted by: Jonathan | Nov 24, 2008 1:15:30 PM

  6. @ david in chicago:

    although i am no fan of diane feinstein, in all fairness, she was quite visibly represented in at least one no on 8 commercial which, indeed, aired a number of times prior to the election.

    just sayin'

    Posted by: alguien | Nov 24, 2008 1:18:31 PM

  7. SOOOO much was done wrong, or half-heartedly before the vote on Prop H8TE, including not just the belatedness of anti-8 influencers like Sen. Feinstein, Schwarzenegger, and Obama, or the fear of naming bigots what they are...BIGOTS...but a FORCEFUL message of unfairness and injustice.

    But the REAL failure wasn't during the months leading up to the vote but the DECADES before during which professional [read PAID] gay "leaders" TOTALLY abandoned any real effort to educate the public while, at the same time, the Antigay Industry reinforced their lies day after day, month after month, year after year.

    And there is NO excuse for our side not already having prepared ads in anticipation of the haters once again playing on people's fears about children. As a vintage NBC nightly news clip that I showed during the recent event honoring my friend Leonard Matlovich of him being intervied during the 1977 Anita Bryant campaign illustrated, that was ALL about "sav[ing] the children"; the CA Briggs Initiative of 1978 that he also fought, and Harvey did as "Milk" dramatizes, was about saving children from evil gay teachers.

    They ALWAYS exploit that irrational fear the most, and that was the message the haters yelled louder and louder in their series of saturation commercials leading up to the vote: even more important than "saving traditional marriage," Prop 8 would save your children from being "taught" homosexual marriage. They often intentionally left out the prepostion "about" homosexual marriage as it is a tenet of the ANTIgay Agenda that we are trying to "indoctrinate" children, "turn" them gay.

    WHY did our wimpy "leaders" let them do that again, and WHEN are they publicly apologizing to the community and RESIGNING [instead of sending out e-mails asking us to trust THEM again with MORE money for a potential revote in 2010]?

    Posted by: Michael Bedwell | Nov 24, 2008 1:37:56 PM

  8. I saw a screening of 'Milk' yesterday and it was a terrific movie with a devastating ending. The film began with the clip of Feinstein announcing the murders and it was chilling.
    She deserves a lot of credit since the ad featuring her denouncing prop 8 was arguably the most effective one they ran.

    We should not be so focused on what the "No on 8" campaign did wrong and assigning blame. The fact remains that the civil rights of any group should never be voted on in a general election and with a minority as small as ours, we are probably not going to win a lot of popularity contests. The results in dozens of states bears this out. We will win this battle in court.
    I am now coming to the realization that the loss on Prop 8 was a blessing in disguise.
    If we had won, we would have celebrated and gone quietly on with our lives. But with the loss has come this amazing new energy and participation in the fight for civil rights that is exactly what we need to get us across the finish line. The loss on this one issue in one state (not to discount Florida and Arizona but everyone is really focused on California because of the fact that they voted to take rights away that were already afforded us)is actually going to help us win the bigger picture on a national level. And then prop 8 is going to be invalidated by the California Supreme Court and it will turn out that we didn't lose after all. But we still got our wake-up call and got our butts in gear and the Mormons are going to be so sorry that they ever pressed on this issue.
    I know it's a bit twisted but I am kind of thankful that we lost because ultimately we are going to win a whole lot more.

    Posted by: Jeffrey | Nov 24, 2008 2:09:23 PM


    I agree and have been calling for Geoff Kors' head since before the vote. The leadership of the No on 8 campaign was fatally flawed.

    Just like how I don't want my congressman giving money to the auto makers until they have a change in leadership and direction, i will not be donating time or money to No on 8 until the same happens.

    I appreciate his passion (and that of Joe Salmonese) but they aren't leading our movement in the right direction.

    Posted by: Dan B | Nov 24, 2008 2:46:25 PM

  10. At least the senator came out and produced an ad against Prop8. She has worked for gay rights, right down to literally trying to revive Harvey Milk. Obama and the Gov did not come out enough against 8. Biden spoke with Ellen and said he did not like it but that was still not enough. Although I am happy these men are our leaders, I'm going to make sure they know that the gay communities helped him get there!

    Posted by: KFLO | Nov 24, 2008 4:38:40 PM

  11. It is time for a new direction in the gay movement. Geoffrey Kors is merely a symptom of a much deeper rot. Firing him alone will not change anything. There is a problem with the strategy itself. And nowhere is that more clear than in the fight to repeal Prop. 8 and these other anti-gay amendments in 30 states.

    These people still don't get it. They're placing all their eggs in the Supreme Court instead of gathering signatures for a referendum and registering new voters. With thousands of people at these protests all over the nation, they could've gotten tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of new voters signed up by now. Instead, we got clever signs, witty repartee, and... little else. If they're going to sit around and wait from the robed penguins to charge to their rescue, they have more problems than one ineffective leader.

    Posted by: John in CA | Nov 24, 2008 5:53:58 PM

  12. Let's not forget that this is the same bitch who, when she was mayor, vetoed domestic partner benefits for the partners of gay San Francisco employees.

    She has come a long way but I have a real hard time forgiving her for doing that to the gay community in the wake of Harvey's tragic death.

    Posted by: Joe | Nov 24, 2008 7:58:41 PM

  13. Joe: I too have had my issues with Feinstein over the years but I give her a lot of credit for speaking out NOW.

    And whatever credibility to the beef you may have with her is completely and totally negated by your referring to her as a 'bitch'.

    Posted by: Rey | Nov 24, 2008 8:16:58 PM

  14. Please... let's stop hatred toward people. The important thing is how people feel and speak TODAY. She has grown. She is now an Ally. May we please embrace her? I am very familiar with the Harvey Milk story... but I never knew how she put her fingers in his bullet wounds to find a pulse. I'm stunned.

    Posted by: Jim B. | Nov 24, 2008 9:09:40 PM

  15. Please... let's stop hatred toward people. The important thing is how people feel and speak TODAY. She has grown. She is now an Ally. May we please embrace her? I am very familiar with the Harvey Milk story... but I never knew how she put her fingers in his bullet wounds to find a pulse. I'm stunned.

    Posted by: Jim B. | Nov 24, 2008 9:11:11 PM

  16. God, I remember that day. It was horrible, so horrible. Everything was like in slow motion, under water. It was another disappointment, another letdown, another unnecessary death of someone who was challenging the status quo, standing up and being brave and courageous in the face of intense hatred. When Harvey was elected, it was like anything was possible. The world was going forward into progress and tolerance. Harvey was a class act--funny, fearless, eloquent, compassionate, camp and all too human. He eventually would have run for Congress, I think, and he would have been elected. His true greatness awaited him. That Prop. 8 won on Nov. 4th is an example of how much we lost, in 1978 and now. That we couldn't beat back the forces of hate and reaction shows just how much we have taken our civil rights for granted. Our demotion to third-class citizenship is just a ballot box, an voter initiative, a constitutional amendment away. Wake up, people!

    Posted by: mike | Nov 25, 2008 2:35:35 PM

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